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University of Edinburgh vows to abolish zero-hour contracts

6 September 2013

The University of Edinburgh announced that it has signed an agreement with the UCU to wipe out the use of zero-hour contracts at the university.

The news comes as a report by UCU revealed that the University of Edinburgh employed more people on zero-hour contracts than any other UK university that had responded to its Freedom of Information request.

The report found that more than half of UK universities used zero-hour contracts, but the numbers of staff employed varied massively and very few had any policies on their use. By contrast, research suggests that one in four other workplaces use zero-hour contracts*

The union's campaign against zero-hour contracts gained government backing during a joint meeting with the Scottish TUC. After hearing how prevalent zero-hour contracts were in higher education, John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, told the meeting that his government rejected the contracts.

The agreement at Edinburgh is a result of negotiations between the institution and the union and UCU reiterated that it is keen to work with any university to seek ways to ensure better terms and conditions for staff.

UCU Scottish official, Mary Senior, said: 'We welcome the commitment from the University of Edinburgh to eradicate zero-hour contracts. We will continue to campaign against exploitative casualised contracts in higher education and are eager to work with any other universities who wish to demonstrate they are good employers.'

The University's Deputy Director of Human Resources Eilidh Fraser said: 'We are pleased to be working in partnership with our trade unions to review our use of 'hours to be notified' contracts and maintain our good employment practices, pay and conditions for all our staff. This builds on our long-standing positive relations with the unions.'

The union said its report shone an important light on the murky world of casualisation in universities. UCU said recent attempts to uncover how prevalent zero-hour contracts are have highlighted just how difficult it is to get to the bottom of the problem.

Research released at the start of August suggested that there could be around one million workers in the UK on zero-hours contracts^ - a marked increase on revised estimations from the Office of National Statistics of just 250,000~.

This weekend the union is taking its campaign to the TUC Congress in Bournemouth where its motion on casual employment contracts will help kick off Sunday afternoon's debates.

A joint statement from the University of Edinburgh and UCU has been issued to union members at the university:

The University of Edinburgh, in partnership with its recognised trade unions, has made a commitment to review the use of 'hours to be notified' contracts, with a view to ceasing their use at the University; and to further enhance current practice (whereby hourly-paid employees benefit from the same terms and conditions as our full-time staff, including rates of pay, access to pensions and holiday entitlements).

In particular, steps are being taken with regard to giving staff guaranteed hours and moving to fractional and pro-rata contracts. We all recognise that such contracts, which are founded on fair and equitable policies and practices, benefit staff, students and the University, and we will continue to work in partnership with our trade unions to shape and model good practice.

Last updated: 10 December 2015